06.08.2022
Putin ‘interrogated Brit security chiefs about defences’ during COBRA meeting, papers show

Secret papers from the New Labour years tell how an engrossed Putin took notes as he questioned senior police and intelligence bosses at the meeting with Premier Tony Blair.

The documents describe how the butcher behind the war in Ukraine and the Novichok poisonings complained about the “cruelty” of terror attacks on Russia.

He also warned of the kind of nuclear plant attack which he would go on to mastermind when his troops attacked Chernobyl last March.

Today, insiders said the former KGB agent wore a “steely” and “scary” expression as he quizzed senior officers of MI5, MI6 and Scotland Yard for more than an hour.

Commentators branded the October 2005 summit as a Tony Blair publicity stunt and stressed that Putin was already known for violence and corruption.

The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal for the first time what happened at the meeting in the Whitehall Cobra room.

Putin was hosted by Mr Blair and Home Office minister Hazel Blears with Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief Andy Hayman and the intelligence heads.

The Kremlin boss was considered a potential ally in the fight against terrorism and his visit made him the first foreign leader to attend Cobra.

A memo says Mr Hayman, then assistant commissioner at the Met, gave an “impressive presentation” on how police tackled the July 7 London bombings, six months earlier.

A home-grown Al Qaeda cell had killed 52 innocent commuters by setting off devices on three tube trains and a bus.

The report by a Foreign Office Russian section official says: “He highlighted the use of CCTV, the timely recovery of forensics and the strong public engagement as key success factors.”

It adds: “Putin was engaged throughout the presentations, taking notes and asking questions – e.g. about the use of CCTV cameras (how many there were, who owned them, who is responsible for monitoring them etc.)”

The former KGB agent “said a few words” about Russia’s “experience of terrorism”, including the murder of more than 500 people at the Beslan school and Dubrovka theatre massacres.

“He admitted there had been shortcomings in the Russian response. In Dubrovka, the medical service had not responded well, he said, resulting in deaths that could have been avoided.

“And the police and security services should have taken control more effectively during the Beslan siege. But he also pointed out the difficulties that the Russians faced on both occasions, pointing to the cruelty of the terrorists, and the impossibility of meeting their demands.”

The report continues: “Putin said that the Russians were concerned about future attacks utilising WMD, such as an attack on a nuclear power plant.

“The security services were focusing on boosting security in these facilities, and training crisis management units to handle such an event.

“He also touched on the need to motivate the security services. To defeat terrorists who are willing to die for their cause, security officers must also be prepared to die.”

The reports from Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomats are heavily redacted to protect security sensitive information and the personal details of those who took part.

But both sides judged the meeting a great success and hoped it would pave the way to greater friendship and co-operation between London and Moscow.

The British official wrote: “There was an important symbolic message – Putin is the first foreign leader to have visited COBR. A positive meeting. Putin’s comments showed that he acknowledged the need for cross-governmental teamwork in counter-terrorism.”

In Russia, the files say: “State TV suggested this reflected both Russia’s importance to the Uk, as counter terrorist partner and changed UK attitudes following July’s bombings.”

After the meeting, Mr Blair told TV reporters in Downing Street: “We had, actually, a fascinating discussion just now about the dangers and the risks that are posed to us. We agreed to work closely together on counter-terrorism for the future.”

Putin said: “The Russian side is very satisfied with the outcome and the course of our discussions. We are appreciative of the candidness which was demonstrated by the British side in discussions about all issues, including sensitive ones.”

But just a year later, Putin’s henchmen murdered Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko by poisoning him with polonium 210 when they met for tea at a London hotel.

His relationship with Britain and the West deteriorated gradually until his first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, which led to the annexation of Crimea.

In 2018, then Premier Theresa May blamed Russia for the “sickening and despicable” Salisbury poisonings, which killed Dawn Sturgess and left Sergei and Yulia Skripal seriously ill.

A source close to the meeting said: “He was steely, he was scary, there was no facial expression, there was no emotional intelligence.

“He can speak in English but he chose to go through a Russian interpreter and so everyone had to do likewise.

“He wanted to talk about 7/7 and was saying oh! it was dreadful, but at the same time he must have been planning the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko.”

Alan Mendoza, executive director at the Henry Jackson Society, said: “It’s extraordinary that any foreign leader would sit in on such a sensitive domestic UK meeting.

“But it’s particularly astonishing that even in 2005 that people in the west believed this was a man we could do business with.

“There were clear examples already that he was opposed to the sorts of values that we would be promoting.”

He added: “This was a weird choice. I am sure security protocols were upheld and he wasn’t allowed to see all our secrets.

“But he clearly saw enough to ask some probing questions that demonstrated he gained an understanding of some of the aspects of British security that he would not have done had he not been at that meeting.”

Writing in the Daily Express, Professor John Bryson, a Russia expert at the University of Birmingham called the rendezvous a Tony Blair “publicity opportunity” aimed at boosting his profile.

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14.08.2022
GB News: EU to use Sturgeon’s IndyRef2 plot to make relations ‘more difficult’ with UK
Michelle Ballantyne went on GB News to discuss the issues she believes Scotland will face if the country becomes independent.…
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14.08.2022
‘Not realistic’ Jacob Rees-Mogg swats away claims Boris Johnson is plotting return to No10
The Brexit Opportunities Minister, a key ally to the outgoing Prime Minister, claimed it was “not realistic” to think Mr…
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  • 2 часа, 12 минут назад 14.08.2022Politics
    GB News: EU to use Sturgeon’s IndyRef2 plot to make relations ‘more difficult’ with UK

    Michelle Ballantyne went on GB News to discuss the issues she believes Scotland will face if the country becomes independent. Ms Ballantyne is the former MSP and leader of the Scottish Reform UK party, which was formerly known as the Brexit Party.

    Presenter Dawn Neesom asked: “If the SNP do get their way, what do you think it means for the UK if Scotland does leave?”

    Ms Ballantyne spoke about how Britain would be perceived by the rest of the world.

    She said “It would make a difference. It would affect things like the perception of the world.

    “I think the rest of the UK would recover from that, but I think in the short term, there would be a sense across the world that something had gone wrong in the UK.

    “Because, if you look across, there aren’t a lot of examples of one country breaking up into pieces when they have been in a union for such a long time and where everything is intertwined.”

    Ms Ballantyne also spoke about how the UK’s defence system would change.

    The politician said: “I think the biggest concern if you look at it, would be things like that hard power, the relationship we have in terms of defence.

    “The UK sits on NATO. That northern defence ring, a lot of that sits in Scotland.

    “The SNP and the Greens have said they want to make Scotland free from nuclear weapons.

    “That would mean removing that defence shield that currently sits at the top of the UK.”

    Another issue that was brought up was how Scottish independence would create a border between Scotland and England.

    Ms Ballantyne said: “There is no way now, now we’ve left the EU, that you can ignore the fact that if Scotland left the UK, in particular, if it tried to become part of the EU that a border it going to be created.

    “Because Scotland would in effect become a foreign country. If it joined the EU it would be part of the bloc

    “Now again, that’s going to be a long and torturous journey, but I think the short term the EU would use Scotland leaving the UK to basically be even more difficult in its relationship with the UK.

    “It would celebrate it, it would crow about it, but actually, it wouldn’t turn around and let Scotland in.

    “Scotland would still have to meet the requirements of the EU and frankly, Scotland is not going to be a net contributor to the EU’s budget and they’re certainly not going to want to take on another country that has financial difficulties, and Scotland has a very large deficit.”

    Dawn Neesom also asked: “If Scotland becomes a foreign country, and we have that hard border, then does that make Scottish people wanting to come and work in England for example, face all sorts of difficulties with doing that?”

    Ms Ballantyne replied: “Absolutely. There’s a huge unknown around it. The SNP have been campaigning for an independent Scotland for seventy-odd years…and they still can’t lay out what Scotland would be like, how it’d be run, what currency we’d have, how it would operate, how borders would work, how trade would work.

    “You would think after all these years they would have some answers but they don’t.”

    This interview comes at a time the UK Supreme Court is to investigate if the Scottish parliament can legislate a Scottish independence referendum without Westminister’s approval.

    The Scottish government has published a referendum bill which proposes that Scotland should have a vote on Scottish independence next year on October 19 2023.

    The court will hear arguments from both Westminster and the Scottish government on October 11 2022, and a judgement will take place some months afterwards.

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  • 4 часа, 12 минут назад 14.08.2022Politics
    ‘Not realistic’ Jacob Rees-Mogg swats away claims Boris Johnson is plotting return to No10

    The Brexit Opportunities Minister, a key ally to the outgoing Prime Minister, claimed it was “not realistic” to think Mr Johnson could make a return to Downing Street. Mr Johnson announced he would stand down as Prime Minister pending a Tory Party leadership contest in July after he faced a Cabinet cabal.

    During his final Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said it was “probably… certainly” his last despatch box bout against Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

    He also claimed his “mission” was “largely accomplished – for now”.

    Jacob Rees-Mogg, who formerly chaired the pro-Brexit European Research Group, told GB News why he thinks Mr Johnson will be unable to stage a comeback.

    The North East Somerset MP, who is backing Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss in the race to replace Mr Johnson, said: “Nobody’s come back having lost the leadership of the party since Gladstone.”

    Mr Rees-Mogg added: “And I just don’t think in modern politics, the chance of coming back is realistic.

    “Lots of people think they’re going to be called back by a grateful nation which is why Harold MacMillan waited 20 years before accepting his peerage… Life just isn’t like that.”

    However, Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments come while the Sunday Mirror has claimed Mr Johnson and many of his allies are plotting a return to Downing Street if Ms Truss “implodes”.

    A source said: “I think that could well intensify if things go badly for Liz – you get people thinking ‘Would he have been any worse?’

    “She’s got strikes coming up, energy bills, inflation the whole lot.”

    Ms Truss leads her Conservative leadership challenger Rishi Sunak in the opinion polls among Tory Party members.

    According to a survey by Opinium, the Foreign Secretary has opened up a 22-point gap over the former Chancellor.

    However, the outgoing Prime Minister is set to be subject to the forthcoming Commons Privileges Committee inquiry into partygate.

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  • 6 часов, 12 минут назад 14.08.2022Politics
    The REAL Liz: How Truss will focus on delivery

    Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns said Ms Truss could harness the power of Government like no one else. The Conservative MP has not formally endorsed a candidate but praised the way she works with ministers and “remorselessly” strives to deliver results.

    Mr Burns, who worked under Mr Truss when she was International Trade Secretary, said: “I have to tell you, in my experience Liz was the most democratic, involving, devolving ministerial boss that I have ever worked for. She enjoyed running a team, she enjoyed empowering her ministers to deliver, recognising that individual success is collective success, and I have never seen a minister who when she made her mind up bent the machine to her will more effectively than Liz.“So, if Liz wins the leadership election and becomes Prime Minister I think we will see a return to full cabinet government with an absolutely forensic, remorseless focus on delivery.”Describing Ms Truss’s personality, he said: “The thing about Liz is there’s the side of her that often isn’t seen. She’s enormous fun.“She’s got an incredibly developed sense of humour. She’s incredibly loyal.“But fundamentally with Liz, what you see is what you get. Liz is authentic, unspun in many ways.“And those characteristics are ones that the public will find appealing.”A key challenge for the next PM will be reviving Northern Ireland’s power-sharing Government, with unionists adamant that the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol – which is blamed for disrupting trade with Great Britain – must be overhauled.

    Mr Burns said he believes Ms Truss feels a “heavy degree of responsibility” about the British and Irish governments’ obligation to protect the Good Friday Agreement which brought power-sharing to Northern Ireland.He said: “As far as the European Union are concerned, they will have in Liz Truss, if she is Prime Minister, someone who will want to do a deal but will not want to deal at any price; in that time-honoured phrase they will find in Liz Truss someone with whom they can do business if they conclude there is business they wish to do.”

    The Belfast-born Bournemouth West MP wants to avoid a return to direct rule in Northern Ireland or the need for fresh elections to the Stormont Assembly. He is also hopeful that the people of Northern Ireland will choose to remain part of the United Kingdom.“I think a prosperous stable Northern Ireland will enduringly see its place within the United Kingdom,” he said. “I think a confident, embracing, outward-looking pro-union worldview will continue to command not just majority support but overwhelming support.”

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  • 6 часов, 12 минут назад 14.08.2022Politics
    Sunday Express backs Liz Truss as she sets her ambition for Britain

    The Foreign Secretary and frontrunner to succeed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister has pledged to listen to the voices of ordinary people if she wins the keys to Downing St with the unequivocal message: “I’m on your side.” Ms Truss has won the endorsement of the Sunday Express, and she describes how she plans to help families get through the cost of living crisis this winter and details her ambitions for a stronger Britain.

    She said: “Times are tough and I share your concerns. I am running in this contest because I believe I have the vision and ability to help families in every part of the UK.“I will work every day as Prime Minister to make sure you can keep more of your hard earned money, that your children have the best chance to fulfil their potential no matter where they are from, and that our borders and values are secure.“I understand that people are worried about paying for bills and making ends meet, but I have a plan to ignite growth, boost wages and get our economy growing again – to grow the size of the pie so we can all have a slice.”Ms Truss will face one of the most daunting in-trays of a Prime Minister in recent decades if she makes it to No 10, but she argues Britons can look to the future with hope.She said: “I will speak for people right across the United Kingdom, who believe in our country, who know that we can be more successful, who understand that our best days are ahead of us. And I will ignore the siren voices of decline and I will make sure that we get things done to propel our country forward.”Ms Truss argues cutting taxes will drive growth, boost family finances and generate the cash to fund public services.The 47-year-old mother of two acknowledged that people are “struggling with fuel bills and food bills” and insisted this is why “it’s so important that we cut taxes to put more money in people’s pockets”.

    She said: “I would have a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy to [cut] fuel bills. And I will also work to make sure we increase the supply of energy, such as getting more gas out of the North Sea, moving forward quicker on nuclear power to make sure that we have good energy supplies at a reasonable price.”Ms Truss claims that changes to EU-era insurance rules will unlock “tens of billions” of pounds of investment for the manufacturing industries.“We need to be bold,” she said. “We need to grow the economy and we need to unleash all the potential of Brexit…“I will get rid of all the EU laws off the statute books by the end of 2023, putting in place our own rules on things like investment and procurement, and I will drive opportunities right across our country.”Adamant that low taxes and economic growth are crucial to helping households cope with living costs, she said: “I would make sure I’m doing all I can to help struggling families, but the best way to do that is to make sure we’re not taxing people in the first place and actually giving them their own money back.”She is also ready to rip up red tape, saying: “We need to make sure that our tax system, our regulatory system, is on the side of people who are contributing, who run small businesses, who are self employed. We need to make sure that people on fixed incomes like pensioners are able to get by, that is my priority – making sure that we support a society where everybody can thrive.”

    However, in a stance which may put her on a collision course with unions, she argues that major public sector pay increases could harm the country in its fight against inflation. She says it is “very important is that we don’t bake-in ongoing inflation and that’s why we have to have restraints on public sector pay”.The South Norfolk MP’s ambitions go beyond getting the country through the present economic challenges. She wants Britain to be the most prosperous country in Europe.“We absolutely can be,” she said. “We have hugely talented people.“We have a fantastic industries. We have a very successful technology sector.“And there is no reason at all why we can’t build on that make sure everybody in our country prospers and we are the most successful economy in Europe.”Ms Truss understands citizens’ frustration with the state of the public services. Her priorities include addressing NHS waiting lists and making sure people can see GPs and dentists.She pledges that “doctors and nurses on the frontline will be empowered to treat patients in the best possible way” and she says she will “ reduce the level of central diktat and bureaucracy”.

    “I’m somebody who gets things done and makes things happen,” she said.She further understands that millions of voters want a reduction in the number of people attempting to enter the country illegally by travelling in small boats across the English Channel. Her plan includes legislating so the European Court of Human Rights cannot block Government’s policy of sending people to Rwanda to have their asylum claims processed.Stressing the need to deliver a reduction in illegal immigration, she said: “[We] have to make that happen and I’m determined to deliver that.”She says people should take pride in Britain’s history rather than being made to feel ashamed, arguing the rest of the world admires our heritage – and so should we.She said: “I travelled the world as Foreign Secretary and I know that people around the world believe that Britain has made a fantastic contribution to democracy, to freedom and the rule of law, and I will promote that here in Britain. We should be proud of what we are, we should be proud of our values and what we believe in.“And I will have no truck with those who are trying to do our country down and claim that we should be ashamed. The opposite is true.“We should be proud of what we’ve achieved and also we should be confident about our future.”

    What is happening where you live? Find out by adding your postcode or visit InYourArea

    Ms Truss, who is also minister for women and equalities, made it clear she takes a traditional line when it comes to gender identity.She said: “I want to make sure that all of our national life [and] public sector reflect the common sense views of the British people. I’m very clear a woman is a woman.“That’s something that should be understood right across the country.” The former International Trade Secretary is also insistent that Britain will continue to play a leading role in opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.She said: “If [Tory members] elect me they will be sending a message to Putin that we are going to stand up to his bullying and aggression, that we are 100 percent on the side of the Ukrainian people and we won’t rest until Russia leaves Ukraine.”In a personal message to Sunday Express readers, she said: “I didn’t get into politics to manage decline. I mean it when I say our country’s best days are ahead of us.“Sunday Express readers were right to vote for the Conservative Party in 2019, they were right to reject the defeatist and divisive Labour party, and they are right to look to the future with hope. As Prime Minister I will always be on your side.”

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  • 6 часов, 12 минут назад 14.08.2022Politics
    Boris ‘serious’ probe blasted as Tories focus on leadership race

    But allies of the present Prime Minister are concerned he will be found in “contempt” of Parliament by the privileges committee investigation led by former deputy leader Harriet Harman and may have to fight a by-election.Tories claim that Labour is trying to kill off the chances of a comeback by Mr Johnson and there is anger that Conservative whips did not do more to protect the PM.The whips are blamed for running a “very sloppy operation” and making a “howling error” by not ensuring the mandate of the privileges committee was limited to identifying whether Mr Johnson “knowingly” misled Parliament. If he is found guilty of contempt there is the danger he could be suspended from the Commons and have to defend his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat in a by-election.A minister said: “It’s a very serious position.”Former Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is today Brexit Opportunities minister, fired the latest shot at the investigation.He told GB News: “I think the committee inquiry is absurd. The Prime Minister has gone.”Mr Rees-Mogg said Ms Harman was “doing genuine damage to her reputation” by chairing the investigation.A Johnson ally said: “They should drop it immediately. It is awful and vindictive that they are trying to kick a man when he’s down.

    “It is clear though that they worry that Boris might make a comeback and are running scared. This vengeful witch hunt is unbecoming of Parliament and a disgrace.“Ultimately, Boris should answer to the electorate not a kangaroo court.”A senior Conservative backbencher added: “Boris has already paid the price for all of this. [We] shouldn’t fall for this and should rescind the Committee’s mandate when the House returns.”However, other Tories are defending the committee – which has a Conservative majority – and insist the investigation should not be stopped.A long-serving minister said: “No one is above the rules. The privileges committee must go ahead.“The Conservative colleagues on the committee are decent and honourable and should not be attacked… It is for Parliament to decide these matters.“I, and hundreds of other colleagues, feel very strongly on this.”Meanwhile, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak sought to capture the attention of the Tory tribe by pledging to legislate so the UK will be “entirely energy independent by 2045”. He confirmed that if he becomes PM on September 5 there will be immediate support for households with their energy bills.

    Mr Sunak promised urgent action to drive up domestic energy supply with the creation of a new energy security task force and deregulation in the North Sea to allow gas production to increase over the winter.Fracking for shale gas would be allowed where there is local consent, and he wants to introduce low cost measures to insulate millions of homes.He said: “We are facing an energy crisis and I have a plan to both get us through it and make sure this is a one winter crunch.”

    Mr Sunak pledged to “leave no stone unturned to secure British energy sovereignty”.His rival for the top job, Foreign Secretary Ms Truss, presented herself as a PM-in-waiting who would govern in the interests of all the nations of the United Kingdom.She accused Scotland’s SNP of being preoccupied with the issue of independence when they should be focused on averting a recession and attacked the Labour Government in Wales for failing to invest infrastructure.

    Ms Truss said she would invest in projects including upgrading the A75 between Gretna and Stranraer and building the M4 relief road in Wales. She said she would work to open up new export markets for products such as Scottish whisky and smoked salmon, Welsh lamb and ships from Northern Ireland.She said: “For too long, people in parts of our United Kingdom have been let down by their devolved administrations playing political games instead of focusing on their priorities. If elected prime minister, I will deliver for our whole country.“We are not four separate nations in an agreement of convenience, as some would have us believe. We are one great country which shares a history and institutions, but also family and friends, memories and values.

    “I would ensure that our entire family continues to get the attention, support, and investment that it deserves.”

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  • 8 часов, 13 минут назад 14.08.2022Politics
    ‘Labour’s out to lunch’ Starmer missing as Gordon Brown becomes “official Opposition”

    Sir Keir Starmer appears to have vanished from public view as the cost of living crisis continues to hammer households across the country. The Labour leader has been largely absent from the frontlines of politics, leaving critics to question his drive to resolve soaring inflation. With Sir Keir out of the way, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown appears to have emerged as the new face of the Opposition to the Tory Government. Political commentator Ali Miraj has mocked leading Labour politicians for appearing ‘out to lunch’ amid the ongoing economic turmoil.

    Speaking on Talk TV, Mr Miraj said: “Gordon Brown, at the moment, seems to be the official opposition.

    “I’m all in favour of politicians taking breaks, it’s important, they work very hard and they’re in the public eye all the time so they do need to have a break.

    “But, at the moment, we are facing a dire cost of living crisis and Labour seems to be out to lunch.

    “We haven’t heard anything from Rachel Reeves or from Keir Starmer, who was at the Edinburgh Fringe this week defending himself on it.”

    The Labour leader appeared alongside broadcaster Iain Dale for an interview at Edinburgh Fringe Festival this week.

    During the meeting, Sir Keir hinted at “unrepeatable” nicknames he uses to reference the outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

    Sir Keir branded Mr Johnson a “complete lame duck” over his inaction surrounding the crisis of rising fuel costs.

    He added: “The Labour party actually has been all over this for the best part of a year because energy prices and what we would do about them was the dominant theme of our conference last year.”

    Mr Miraj continued: “The Labour party has not really been visible.

    “Gordon Brown has been and he is basically saying that crises do not take holidays and you need to act now.”

    Writing for The Observer, Gordon Brown has declared the nation is heading towards a “financial timebomb” of rocketing energy costs and urged the Government to take emergency action.

    Mr Brown’s comments have had an undeniable impact with Boris Johnson mistakenly referring to him as the “current Labour leader” during an interview on the energy crisis.

    Sir Keir has reportedly been enjoying some time away from his political duties on a holiday with his family.

    Mr Brown slammed the absence of the Labour leader in a fiery article in which he declared economic crises “don’t take holidays.”

    The former Prime Minister wrote: “Tide and time wait for no one. Neither to crises.

    They don’t take holidays and don’t politely hang fire – certainly not to suit the convenience of a departing Prime Minister and the whims of two potential successors and the Conservative party membership.”

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Politics Putin 'interrogated Brit security chiefs about defences' during COBRA meeting, papers show